Crohn's disease is chronic inflammatory disease of the bowel and has only recently been recognized as a significant disease in children and adolescents. It’s a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In a child with Crohn's disease, the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the digestive tract. The tissue becomes swollen and inflamed, causing the intestine walls to thicken.
The digestive system goes from the mouth to the anus, and Crohn's disease can affect any part of it, including the mouth, esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach), stomach, and rectum, as well as both the small intestine and large intestine. Crohn's disease most frequently occurs at the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine.
Children and young adults are most commonly diagnosed with Crohn's disease between the ages of 15 and 25; however, it can occur at any age.
Medical treatment aims to control the inflammatory progress of the disease, while minimizing any potential side effects caused by medications. Goals are to allow normal physical development and to provide as near a normal lifestyle as possible for the patient.
Genetics, environmental factors and risk factors – like a parent smoking – can all have a role in the diagnosis of Crohn's disease. However, the exact cause of Crohn's disease remains unproven but it is understood to be a disorder of the immune system. Viral or bacterial agents are suspected as being the triggers behind the response.